I wake up courtesy of a rabbit which seems to have confused my balls with a prospective breakfast.
I go to shoo it away, but not until after a moment of brief consideration. It’s been ten days, after all.
Moving swiftly on.
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We’re treated to possibly the best breakfast of the tour, so far. Good coffee, great cheese and really, really beautifully done fried eggs. I never thought I’d have a reason to describe the standard to which fried eggs have been cooked as ‘beautiful’, but I am right to do so. This fried eggs really are exemplary.
As result, I feel in no rush to leave. I also feel a solid inch or so of grease covering my exterior, so elect to shower.
Although refreshed, said shower has bought something alarming to my attention. Whether I’ve lost more weight in recent weeks than expected or the grease I was moments ago covered in had solidified, my pants no longer fit.
I’ve been pretty disciplined at the gym this last few weeks and also made considerable effort to eat a more balanced diet. That the result of this endeavour is so impossible to ignore, fills me with a great sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
Ah, no, it’s just that the elastic has bust.
Let’s have a look around Novosibirsk
The day is young and the drive to tonight’s show in Tomsk is of the less ridiculous variety. Our hosts would like to show us a bit of their city. Even if we were opposed to such a prospect, saying no to them for any reason following the breakfast they just spoiled us with, would be as severe a transgression against common sense as it would common decency.
As we leave the apartment building, I’m once again struck by the awe-inspiring sight of the artwork adorning one of the other building’s walls. The scale and attention to detail of the craftmanship is impressive. For some reason I don’t bother taking a photograph. You’ll just have to believe me in regards to how badass it is.
Moments pass and we are heading into Novosibirsk, the largest city in Siberia, third largest in all of Russia (behind Moscow and St Petersburg) and single largest in Siberia. From a global perspective, Novosibirsk is recognised for its contributions to scientific fields.
We find ourselves in at the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre. It’s a really cool spot and there’s a statue of Lenin with a big, wavey coat.
Alex waffles on about history for a bit. I do find history genuinely quite interesting, but I also find talking about it bloody, bloody boring. I think my absolute flaccid bell end of a High School History teacher really poisoned me against the whole topic. In fairness, I’d probably had a similar effect on him by the time I left.
Our departure from the local vicinity is facilitated by a path cutting through an area comprising trees and statues. One such statue is a pair of angel wings fashioned from wooden… bollocks, what’s the word? Not tubes… branches seems incorrect. I don’t know, basically long sticks which are conveniently bendy. Vines, perhaps?
We’re a grindcore band, so indulging our egos by posing for photographs becomes an immediate priority.
I feel like I expect Kate Moss would, if she was an ugly Midlander, crippled by inner doubt and pants that refuse to stay at a non-arrestable height.
I really wish the elastic on these pants handn’t gone. I feel like I’m only ever a moment away from ending up on some sort of register.
Putting that to one side, I’m really quite taken with the area. This seems to be a recurring theme with Siberian cities.
There’s something incredibly low-poly about the architecture. I feel like you could render point clouds of close-range photogrammetry data from here and it’d go straight into the Quake 2 engine with absolutely no problem.
That’s possibly the nerdiest reference I’m going to make of this entire tour. You’re welcome.
Our host’s (apologies if you’re reading this, for forgetting your name. I am shit with names… and life) partner continues to take photographs. I come to understand that he’s going to be joining us on the journey to Tomsk. Perhaps this prospect fills her with such deep concern that she wishes to immortalise his image with as many pictures as possible, before she’s unable to ever again.
She’s right to be worried. We are pretty incompetent.
I get bored so start talking to a pigeon.
Stupidity. I don’t speak Russian.
Now’s probably a good time to leave.
All roads lead through Siberia
I awaken as we pull into a garage. This is good timing as I’m starting to feel like there’s several bricks wedged between my buttocks.
I exit the van and am met by a pair of mangey, exhausted looking dogs. They have sad, tired eyes. I always feel a slight knot in my stomach whenever I see dogs like this.
They don’t seem especially interested in conversing. I make my way to the toilet, as perhaps they can sense the muscular stress my body is currently under.
Ugh, it’s one of those sitting-down toilets. There’s no bog roll either. Thank god I bought my own.
I hear some rather distressing sounds coming from the toilet next to me. I pity both the poor whose insides sound like they’re being inverted with every sweat-inducing push and whomever’s responsibility it is to de-contaminate the room when they’re done.
It turns out to be Alex. He’s gone red. His face reminds me of Lex’s from Jurassic Park, when she sees the shadow of the Velociraptor behind the mural.
Suffice it to say, his exit is a swift one.
Another strange Russian garage
The place is a little strange. I mean, all these garages are, but there’s always ‘one thing’ that makes them especially strange, in their own right.
The sad, tired looking dogs are certainly contributing to this mood. Moreso of a contributer I think, is the cartoon dog on the side of the cafe wall.
What the living fudge is that all about?
I mean, bloody hell. Why would someone draw this? Perhaps if I bothered asking someone to translate, I’d be gifted with the context required to make sense of it. But I’m not sure I want to make sense of this. He looks like how I feel when I think about post-Ferguson era Manchester United.
I decide to look at the sky in the hopes of seeing something a little more positive. Or going blind. Either would do, right now.
There’s a load of birds flying overhead. I like birds. I like to imagine what they’re seeing at the exact moment I’m looking at them. Some bearded twat with a distressed look on his face, I imagine.
A couple splinter off from the group and make for a nice photograph.
Back at the van, moods are high. Clearly no-one’s been through the same last ten minutes I have. A pair of Mutts who look like they just came off the set of a live action Plague Dogs, Alex decimating the porcelain, a weird-ass cartoon dog who looks like he desperately wants to be put down and a bunch of patronising birds.
Not sure at what point I decided they were patronising.
Not sure I really needed to drag this whole sorry episode out as much as I have done, either.
I need to sleep.
Welcome to Tomsk
I awaken as we arrive in the city of Tomsk.
It’s a nice city. Varied architecture interspersed with these pockets of green. Busy streets walked by people of all ages. There’s a real buzz to life here and I’d say a slightly more youthful one, too. It’s probably just the area we’re driving through or being the time of day when people are starting to come out/get prepared for a night on the town. I’m digging what I see so far, either way.
A bit of research reveals that Tomsk’s population of approximately 525,000 people, comprises approximately 15% students.. That would probably explain the more youthful tone of the city, despite being one of Siberia’s oldest.
Six (or eight, my extensive research of three web pages display conflicting data on this) Universities call Tomsk their home, as does the oldest University in all of Siberia. All signs point to Tomsk being a very active city and it hosts an annual Travel Festival, celebrating and discussing hiking, paragliding, pot-holing and more.
You perhaps shouldn’t judge a place (people are fine) on first impressions, but in the case of Tomsk, everything I’m reading reinforces the assumptions I made when we first entered. I can imagine this being a fantastic place to live.
It might be a completely shit place for Krupskaya to play a gig, but we’ll find out about that soon enough.
We arrive at the venue and before the van door is even fully open, there are arms extended for handshakes and folks asking if they can help unload the gear.
I hate unloading gear, so these have immediately become my favourite people of the tour, so far.
Denis has also attracted a lot of attention by his presence alone. It’s a reminder as to just how much of a legend this gentleman is out here. I expect a lot of these people have seen their new favourite band or been to their favourite show as a direct result of Denis and the Gazelle of Death.
I do not expect our performance is going to help his reputation.
One chap hands us a poster for tonight’s event. It features an illustration of the band.
Riley looks like a terrorist, Matt looks depressed, they’ve coloured my hair in a shade unnervingly close to ginger while Alex’s gingerness has been eradicated completely.
Plus, the T-shirt I’m wearing in the poster I have since lost, so this has sparked a painful memory. I liked that T-shirt.
It’s fantastically accurate and has very much captured each of our individual essences. It appears I’m holding a gun, too!
It’s boss, tonight’s going to be fun.
We head inside the venue, a fairly typical rock club. It’s a nice spot, but I need the toilet so it’s unlikely to be for much longer.
The toilet situation itself is a little strange. You open the door and it’s basically on a raised platform, with a small staircase leading up to it.
I make my way to the top and immediately feel like that creepy bad guy from Ghostbusters 2. The bit where he’s like “On a mountain of bones I sit on a throne of blood”. But this isn’t made from bones and blood. Although based on how my stomach’s feeling, it might be full of both pretty soon.
Music in Tomsk
The first band plays. They sound fat and sludgey. I’m too mature to make a joke about how that description could just as easily be applied to my recent toilet experience. I enjoy the band. There’s a fine line in this sort of music between good and boring. I mean that with the utmost respect to those who avoid falling into the latter category.
I think it’s quite a tight, specific genre so there’s little room for introducing things that go against the grain, without becoming something else entirely.
Same goes for the second band, though this time it’s black metal. There’s little more to say, than that. They’re good, tight and kick with some real gusto. Songwriting wise there’s nothing that really distinguishes it from the vast majority of black metal bands we play with, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing if they’re playing well – which they are.
The final band is something else entirely. They’ve got a sort of post-punk, pop vibe going on. I’m really into this, the drumming is especially inventive (it later transpires that the guy hasn’t been playing long at all) and the songs manage to be quirky without descending into being farsical. A risk with this sort of music I find.
They’re my favourite of the night and one of my favourites of the tour so far.
We take to the stage and play a decent set.
That’s right, I don’t stab myself in the knee, Matt doesn’t fall through the stage, the sound is good and we play all the tracks to a fairly consistent standard.
It feels strange to play a good show and there not be something going wrong. Maybe that trip to the toilet killed me and I’m actually in heaven right now?
No, no that can’t be true. Krupskaya has absolutely no place in anyone’s peaceful afterlife.
The show ends and we retire to our host’s flat, where we’ll be staying for the next three days for some sight seeing. A large group follows us and disperses across various rooms, engaging in topics of conversation as diverse and Russian politics to homosexuality in dinosaurs.
I’m not especially good at the whole ‘conversation’ thing and find myself relieved when a small cat arrives next to me. She’s white all over, wonderfully fluffy and her eyes are different colours.
I’ve found who I’ll be conversing with this evening.
The cat eventually grows tired of my insistence that Doom 2016 had absolutely no need for a crouch button and walks off.
In fairness, I think it’s a reasonable point.
I can only recall two instances where the crouch button was required. Once at the beginning and during the boss battles, when they fire beams just too high to jump over.
I mean, sure, you need to crouch to get into air vents, but that could just as easily be done with contextual environmental triggers. Ie: when heading towards a vent and enter a certain proximity, automatically crouch. But in fairness, id Software have been designing games for much longer than I haven’t, so I should probably just accept the title for being the masterpiece that it is.
You see this? This is why I’m not good at conversation. I’m in the middle of a tour across an incredible region of the planet, around people who’ve welcomed me into their home and all I can think about are problems with the control scheme on a videogame.
My better half doesn’t know how lucky she is.
Festivities continue well into the night until eventually, tiredness gets the better of me.
I find myself a comfortable spot on the floor and the cat returns (good film) to relax with me.
I guess I’ve been forgiven for talking about Doom.
This seems as good a place as any to lay this entry to rest.
Tomsk, that was good shit – thanks!